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5 Autoimmune-Friendly Sweeteners

Autoimmune protocols (AIPs) are diets that are specifically designed to reduce inflammation in the body. There are over 100 autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto's and psoriasis, which all stem from the immune system becoming confused and attacking the body's cells and tissue.

The main sign of an autoimmune condition is inflammation, which can be caused by gut permeability ('leaky gut'), where toxins leak through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. An AIP diet addresses 'leaky gut' by removing foods that are high in lectins, phytates and gluten, known to contribute to gut permeability.

If you are considering taking up an AIP, you may have concerns about quitting sugar. The good news is that it is only refined sugar that you will have to give up and your body will immediately thank you for this anyway. There are plenty of natural sweeteners still available that you can use sparingly and we are going to take a look at the top five here. The secret is to stick to 20 grams of fructose a day, although if you are diabetic, you may not be able to stand as much sugar as other people.


When purchasing honey, it is important to buy only raw organic honey. It is best to buy your honey from a local farmer when possible. Honey is considered a ‘functional food’ meaning that it has nutritional value. For this reason, honey is my favourite go-to sweetener. Honey has 6 grams of sugar per 1 tsp and contains around 40% fructose, compared to 50% in the case of sugar. It also creates less of a sugar spike and is sweeter tasting than sugar, meaning that less is required. Despite this, honey still counts as a ‘free sugar’ and should be used in moderation.

Maple Syrup

When purchasing maple syrup, only purchase real maple syrup. It is important to read labels. Maple syrup has 5 grams of sugar per teaspoon. It contains numerous antioxidants, some of which have anti-inflammatory properties, and a lower GI (glycaemic index) than sugar, making it less likely to cause a sugar crash.

Date paste

I like to use date paste to sweeten my treats. Dates can be used to sweeten Protein Balls, homemade cereal, grain-free baked goods and smoothies. While dates are high in sugar, they are also high in fibre, which means that the sugar is not absorbed into the blood as quickly as sugar. Dates have a strong nutritional profile, including several vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin K and magnesium which are all needed for healthy bones, selenium which prevents cell damage from toxins, and folate which is involved in healthy red blood cell formation and important in pregnancy.


Molasses is a by-product of the sugar making process. Purchase only blackstrap molasses, it is nutrient-dense with five times as much iron as steak and 1.5 times as much calcium as cheese! Molasses has a similar GI to refined sugar, however there is some evidence that it may help to stabilise blood sugar. Molasses may not be suitable for anyone with irritable bowel syndrome.

Monk Fruit

A zero calorie and zero carb sweetener from sub-tropical melon. Monk fruit can be difficult to get hold of in the west, however a powdered derivative is widely available. Monk fruit does not cause blood sugar spikes and contains numerous vitamins and minerals. In addition, there is some evidence that it helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

Coconut Sugar

While technically AIP compliant, coconut sugar is difficult to digest for many people (due to the inulin fibre) and is technically still sugar. I suggest using only in moderation.

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